Statement on New Asylum Eligibility Bars

On October 20, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule adding myriad new bars to asylum eligibility, effective November 20, 2020, 30 days after its official publication on October 21, 2020. It is the final version of a proposed rule that came out in December 2019, which we opposed alongside hundreds of other groups. As a result of this rule, countless asylum seekers will be barred from eligibility for asylum in the United States and sent back to the very conditions they fled.

In our comment opposing this rule in January 2020, we wrote: “The proposed regulations are most likely to harm those who are the most traumatized, most vulnerable, and most abandoned by society. The significant expansion of mandatory bars to relief will inevitably result in people being unfairly denied access to asylum without ever having their cases meaningfully reviewed. This is also true of the final rule announced on October 20, which is cruel beyond comprehension.

The rule adds many new bars to asylum eligibility based on legal infractions, including immigration offenses such as any unlawful re-entry conviction, misdemeanor drug possession for personal use, or any felony regardless of specific findings of danger. It also bars people from asylum if a judge determines there is “reason to believe” they have committed an act of domestic violence. The rule casts an unjustifiably and unconscionably broad net that will, by design, result in people being unfairly denied access to asylum with no meaningful consideration of the dangers that they face or the trauma that they have endured.

Such an expansion is at direct odds with the United States’ obligations under the United Nations Convention on Refugees, and it is yet another attack by the current administration on the human rights and dignity of those seeking refuge and safety in the United States. We stand with our partners and all those impacted by this rule in the continued fight for just and humane treatment of all people.